How to Prepare Your Home for a Heat Wave
According to the American Red Cross, heat waves have caused more deaths than other natural disasters in recent years. If you live in a state that experiences extreme heat, it’s important to know that no one is impervious to the effects of a heat wave. Understanding the dangers of this quiet killer can save you and your family from heat stroke, ailments and even death.
Those who live in arid or tropical climates often overlook heat waves. However, living in these areas is all the more reason to prepare for such an occasion. Continue reading this guide to learn how to prepare an emergency kit for a heat wave, how to reinforce your home and measures for evacuating due to excessive heat.
What is a heat wave?
A heat wave occurs when trapped air collects in the atmosphere, becomes extremely hot and stays in one area. Meteorologists declare a heat wave when the average maximum temperature over five days reaches nine degrees above average. As such, a heat wave in one location is considered typical weather in another. Heat waves last anywhere from one day and several weeks. In most areas, a heat wave brings temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
While a heat wave does not usually cause any palpable damage to a home or infrastructure, it can affect human and wildlife and deplete natural water resources. The only tangible characteristic of a heat wave is the extreme heat felt when one stands outside. Due to the increase in humidity, the temperatures feel even hotter. In fact, despite the lack of wreckage normally associated with natural disasters, heat waves are the number one killer when it comes to weather-related catastrophes.
Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration occur in a short span of exposure to heat. It is not advisable to spend ample time outdoors. If working outside, drink excess fluids, take several breaks and limit activity to shaded areas. Bring pets and animals indoors and ensure they are kept cool and hydrated.
Levels of a Heat Wave
The heat index measures how hot it feels when factoring in the relative humidity with the current temperature reading. For example, a temperature reading of 96 degrees Fahrenheit can feel like 121 degrees. A 15-degree increase in temperature is caused by full exposure to the sun and strong winds. The National Weather Service initiates alerts if the heat index exceeds between 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 110 degrees Fahrenheit for two days in a row.
Excessive Heat Outlook
An excessive heat outlook is when there is a potential for excessively hot weather within the next three to seven days. This is an advanced warning for individuals who need to prepare, such as landscape or construction workers or those prone to fatigue.
Heat conditions are forthcoming within the next 12 hours. Failing to take precautions against higher temperatures results in heat-related illnesses.
Excessive Heat Watch
Conditions for excessive heat are favorable and likely to occur within the next 24 to 72 hours. A heat watch indicates the risk of extreme temperatures, though a certain time is not yet established.
Excessive Heat Warning
Extremely dangerous heat conditions are likely to occur in the next 12 hours. Maximum temperatures are expected to reach at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two days. Take precautions to avoid heat stroke and other typical ailments.
Reinforce Your Home for a Heat Wave
Heat waves mostly affect humans and animals. During a heat wave, your home serves as your ice-cold haven. Use a few, or all of the following items to reinforce your home before an oncoming heat wave.
Window reflectors prevent heat from getting into your home by reflecting the sun. In addition, they save you money on air conditioning costs over the long run and offer a level of privacy from people outside looking in.
Weather stripping seals any unwanted openings along windows and doors. Usually composed of foam with an adhesive strip, weather stripping insulates and keeps heat from seeping into small openings found around the house. Properly-installed weather stripping lasts between one and three years. It is a fairly inexpensive utility in the battle against heat.
Drapes and Shades
Close all the shades in the house and use heavier materials for the drapes to block out excess heat. Blackout curtains are light-reducing curtains made to keep a room dark and cool. Using blackout curtains also assists in keeping the room at your desired temperature while reducing air conditioning bills over time.
If your home is not already insulated, the process is a relatively cheap investment when considering long-term benefits. Adding insulation to your walls, basement and attic helps keep the hot air out and the cool air in.
In addition to all the above, replace old air conditioning air filters at least once per month and make sure your air conditioning unit is in working order. Call a professional to have your air conditioning system tuned up. Ask the professional to clean your vents, add Freon and perform other maintenance services.
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